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Take the time to listen to Dr. Martin Luther King Jr.’s famous “I Have a Dream” speech today. Then ask yourself where his message would fit in today’s political discourse.

He references the Declaration of Independence and the Constitution. He pleads for real justice, the abolition of force-wielding institutions of racial segregation, not the false “social justice” of material provision. He explicitly condemns hatred and violence, recognizing whites as “brothers and sisters.” Most powerfully, he concludes with the exhortation to “let freedom ring!”

Who among those laying claim to King’s legacy sound like him today? Who among the organized Left advocates for objective freedom and true justice? Who rejects hatred and fosters the healing of racial divides? Al Sharpton? Jesse Jackson? Van Jones? Barack Obama? Who?

The truth, laid bare for the discerning to see, is that those who most vocally lay claim to King’s legacy fundamentally reject his noble dream. Recall that quote most cited whenever King is evoked:

I have a dream, that my four little children will one day live in a nation where they will no longer be judged by the color of their skin, but by the content of their character.

Consider what such a nation requires. In order to judge someone by the content of his character, you must remain free to do so and to act upon that judgment in pursuit of your own happiness. Effectively, you must be free to discriminate, to judge this as right and that as wrong, to deem one person good and another bad. Liberty proves foundational to King’s dream. Yet those laying claim to King’s legacy stand opposed to liberty at every turn.

We cannot force individuals to judge others by the content of their character. Any attempt to do so, any attempt to abolish racism by state decree, will fail on account of its ignoring the primacy of choice in the formation of values. King’s dream can only be achieved through persuasion, by appealing to reason and securing individual consent. Consequently, the world necessary to foster racial harmony counter-intuitively must tolerate offensive attitudes and choices.

True, under liberty we may never reach the ideal. But we’ll come a hell of a lot closer than under any other condition.